“I want to go viral.” “Let’s make hundreds of thousands of dollars on Instagram.” “I want a million followers.” These are all goals (or some variation) I’ve heard from potential clients. And while you can absolutely grow a large following, make money, and in some cases go “viral,” doing so is not as easy – or likely – as you might think. So let’s talk about what realistic expectations for Instagram look like.
It’s a powerful platform, there is no doubt about that. But putting the success of your business on its shoulders is a little unfair. There are a lot of factors that go in to whether or not a piece of content goes viral – including some randomness – or the sales you make, and some of them don’t have anything to do with Instagram (more on that later).
If you approach Instagram with unrealistic expectations, you’re likely to be disappointed. That then takes away from what you can achieve with the platform, and sucks the fun out of marketing your business (and at the end of the day? It should be fun!)
I am all about the data. It’s what I focus on when setting goals for clients and writing up their analytic reports. So let’s take a look at what realistic expectations for Instagram look like, across a couple of common goals.
Average reach for posts is 12% of your following; For stories, it’s 2%. If you’re hitting at or above these numbers, you’re doing fantastic! When you see accounts with high amounts of views, you have to look at their amount of followers as well.
The state of engagement is a little dismal; average engagement rate is 1-5%. According to Social Insider, in the interior design industry, the average engagement rate is a very low 0.49% . So if you’re upset that no one’s seeing your content, it may be about the quality of what you’re sharing. It could also be that your expectations are off and you’re doing more than ok
This is what a lot of potential clients want to know: how many followers they’ll get when they start working with a social media manager. ABC Social Media Management clients see around 20-50 new followers each month; But average growth is 1.69% a month. Focus more on the percentage change each month than how fast your follower count is climbing.
The likelihood of going viral isn’t something you can measure. While there are best practices to follow, it’s not something you should ever expect. Nor is it necessarily what’s going to help you achieve your goals.
What every potential clients want to hear that they’ll be guaranteed if they invest in social media management: sales. The truth is, social media is one small piece of your overall business. It’s often the starting point of a customer’s journey with your brand. But did you know that it can take more than 70 interactions with your brand for a customer to purchase? These interactions aren’t just on social media – they include your website, customer service, the checkout page, and more. Expecting sales to come quickly if you haven’t been marketing yourself much on social media is unrealistic.
Now this isn’t to say you can’t make sales from social media. 95% of my leads find me on Instagram. My clients get inquiries from their pages as well. But how many sales, and how soon you can expect them, is very dependent on the amount of time you’re putting in as well as your target audience and how they interact with you.
Now the numbers above are averages – so you might fall above and below, depending on a number of factors including:
Does this mean if you have less time to spend on social media, or aren’t putting money into ads, you won’t be successful? Not necessarily – but your time, your skill, your niche, and your resources will play a role in what you can achieve (and should factor into your expectations).
When you set reasonable expectations, you’re also more likely to stick with your efforts and see them pay off over time.
Now that I’ve told you all about the average numbers, and what impacts your ability to hit certain goals – let’s discuss how to set the right goals for your Instagram!
Any goal you set should be based on your business strategy. If you sell a low-ticket product, you’ll likely want high volume (meaning more followers) to get in front of more people. But if you sell an expensive service, you might not need as many followers but rather want to focus on engagement and DM conversations. If you’re building up a newsletter, your priority might be website clicks.
It’s also important to think about a reasonable timeline for these goals. If you’re starting from zero, hitting 10,000 followers in a month is unlikely. If you haven’t posted in months, you probably won’t see record engagement numbers when you first start back up.
Finally, you need to consider if you have the resources to achieve a certain goal. If you can only post 3 times a week, you’ll still grow – but you’ll likely grow slower than someone cranking out 7 pieces of content a week who has a team behind them. Neither option is wrong, but knowing which category you fall into will help you set a goal you can actually achieve.
When we’re throwing these lofty goals around for Instagram you might forget: there are often downsides to going viral or having hundreds of thousands of followers. Going viral might mean you’re put in front of the wrong audience – or trolls. Accounts with millions of followers typically have very low engagement rates. Neither of these goals are wrong. But they may not be the right goal to chase for your business and your particular needs.
Setting realistic expectations for Instagram comes down to
Not sure if your expectations are realistic? Let’s hop on a strategy session and talk through goal-setting, content strategy, and planning to ensure you’re on the right track to meeting your goals.
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ABC Social Media Management® is a Florida-based social media management company serving female entrepreneurs worldwide through comprehensive management and strategy services.